Monday 16 November 2009

Sunday Driver, J-Marie Cooper, Gabriella Ellis - Cafe De Paris 13 November 2009

Sunday Driver

Back to the Café De Paris for a Friday of random pop acts. As usual, things are weighted more towards the X-Factor/ night club range of the spectrum, and there are some excellent performances tonight.

First off we get the leather jacket and spandex leggings of J-Marie Cooper, pouting and vamping through a series of fast tempo rock songs of the type that Pink would give her hefty tattooed forearm for. Long of leg and with a snarl on her lips, J-Marie is a formidable front woman, possessed of a piercingly powerful voice. Much better on the faster material, she also indulges in a couple of weepy ballads that are technically very good, but a bit icky for my tastes. Her only misstep is to finish with a slowed down and sanitised version of Radiohead’s ‘Creep’ – when the audience recognise the song there is a momentarily visible cringe and recoil. This is just a minor misjudgement – she is a terrific performer.

Next up comes Gabriella Ellis. She is accompanied by the Dark Diamonds - a bad-girl troupe of four dancers and together they raunch their way through a short set of steamy electro pop that reminds me of Britney Spears better stuff (i.e. the barmy Britney of 'Blackout').

Gabriella and the Diamonds writhe and preen and ripple with power, moving off the stage and among the audience. I wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of them.

Next up come Total Movement, who are the first band of the night. They are technically proficient in a non-threatening easy listening kind of way, but the vocals are autotuned to such a ridiculous extent that it is hard to get any feel for them. They are young and good looking, but they are either aiming at tweenagers or grandmothers. Which of course is the most lucrative market there is. It just doesn’t include me.

And then an act who are largely uncategorisable. Sunday Driver are dressed in Victorian garb (including some excellent stove pipe hats) and play a part Western, part Hindi type of rock on guitars, sitars and tablas. They are led by the very engaging Chandrika, who chats cheerfully and sings in a traditional Indian style. The combination of instruments is mesmerising and they go down hugely well. At times they almost sound like an Eastern Spiritualised. I purchase their album and although I experience a small degree of buyers’ remorse the following day, it is certainly a fine souvenir of a unique act.

The next act also flirts with the days of Empire. Lucid Jake and his band are dressed in cavalry jackets and blouson shirts. They start and finish their set with their front man centre stage, blindfolded and, to a military drum roll, feigning being executed by firing squad. As an attention grabber it’s…different.

Once the theatricals are out the way the band settle down to a series of keyboard heavy pop tunes, all of which are very easy on the ear, none of which entirely stick in the memory. LJ smiles and tosses his hair and looks as though he would eat himself if he were made out of chocolate. Still, you’ve got to admire his confidence.

Train difficulties mean that I have to cut short my appraisal of the final act, V Double E. From what I see, this is possibly for the best, as she appears to be an extremely basic rapper whom the likes of Goldielocks would eviscerate.

I always enjoy Friday nights down the Café De Paris. A great time is guaranteed and the whole evening is often as mad as a box of frogs. Recommended for anyone who wants to see the intersection of the music business and show business. For me, the stars tonight were J-Marie Cooper, who could give any TV variety contestant a good shellacking and Sunday Driver, who could entertain almost any type of crowd.

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